He was sure his Minnesota Timberwolves were going to respond in the season finale, finishing a year of unmet expectations on a high note against the lowly Utah Jazz. Instead, one of the most respected coaches of his generation watched his team deliver a lackluster performance that in no way resembled the precise, sophisticated game Adelman has been known for over the last quarter century.
Trey Burke scored a career-high 32 points to go with nine assists and seven rebounds and the Jazz avoided the worst record since moving to Utah 35 years ago with a 136-130 double overtime victory over the Timberwolves on Wednesday night.
''Just disappointed,'' a crestfallen Adelman said. ''I really thought we were going to win this game. I thought we'd come out and play a lot harder, with more energy, and it didn't happen.''
Gordon Hayward had 23 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists, and Derrick Favors added 21 points and 12 boards for the Jazz (25-57), who would have tied the worst record since the team relocated in 1979 with a loss. They also snapped a five-game losing streak and won for just the fourth time in their last 25 games.
''It's way better than going out in defeat,'' Burke said.
''Obviously, it doesn't mean much, but it's our job. Like Coach (Tyrone) Corbin said, 'Every time you step on the court, you represent yourself and you want to put on a good showing.' I think we did that.''
Kevin Martin scored 36 points for the Timberwolves (40-42), who missed a chance to finish with their first non-losing record since 2005. Kevin Love scored 19 points on 4-for-15 shooting in what could be Adelman's last game as an NBA coach.
The Jazz were cruising with a 19-point lead in the first quarter and a 13-point lead with 10 minutes to play. But Martin scored 14 of his points in the last 5:35 of the game to bring the Wolves roaring back. His free throws with 57 seconds to play tied the game at 107, and Love missed a step-back jumper at the buzzer that would have won it.
Jeremy Evans had a career-high 18 points and 11 rebounds for the Jazz and Burke drilled a 3-pointer with one minute to play in double overtime for a 130-125 lead.
The Wolves allowed the Jazz to shoot 49 percent, missed 12 free throws, and Love, who also had 10 rebounds and nine assists, was 1 for 9 from 3-point range.
''If this was coach's last hurrah, it's very disappointing,'' Martin said. ''When you don't show up the first three quarters, that's what happens.''
Adelman's contract has a mutual option for next season. The 67-year-old coach resisted several opportunities to reveal his plans, only saying he would meet with owner Glen Taylor and President Flip Saunders, likely on Thursday, to come to a conclusion. It is widely expected that Adelman will not return.
''I've been doing this a long time and I will say this, every year it does get harder,'' Adelman said. ''The travel gets hard. You always evaluate it every year as you go through. But you also understand you have a job that people would die for and I've been lucky to have the job for over 20 years. I've got to really look at it and evaluate and talk to everybody.''
Things are just as murky for Corbin in Utah. He completed his fourth season on the bench and has presided over a massive rebuild that hasn't given him much of a chance to pile up victories. The Jazz lost 21 of their last 25 games of the season and their fans were worried more about Utah's lottery chances than anything else.
A loss would've left the Jazz with the fourth-worst record in the league. But because they won and Boston lost, the Jazz are tied with the Celtics, which will bring a coin flip tie-breaker before the draft lottery is held to determine who will have the greater chance to move up.
The Jazz certainly didn't play to lose on Wednesday night.
''It's a positive note to go out on, we got a lot of room to grow though, and we got to make sure we understand what gave us a chance to win tonight, that's staying together, working hard together, making sure we're focused on the attention to details,'' Corbin said.